Today is the first Sunday of Advent. It marks the beginning of a new Church year. We tend to think of this season as a warmup to Christmas, but that is only a partial understanding of Advent. The word "advent" means "coming" or "to come to," and in the life of the Church, Advent celebrates the two comings of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We begin the season by recalling the truth that Christ will come again. He will come in glory and with His angels to judge the living and the dead. He will set all to right, and His Kingdom will have no end. How easy it is to lose sight of this in the midst of our busyness and our worries. Life as we know it now is not the way things will be forever.
We may lose heart and perhaps doubt: "It's been some 2000 years, and He hasn't come back yet. Perhaps the Church was mistaken." But 2 Peter 3:8-9 reminds us that the Lord sees things differently than we do. A thousand years with Him is like a day passing, and He is patient in coming because He does not want anyone to perish. But make no mistake - He is coming! And that day will catch many by surprise. Advent bids us make ready for the coming of our Lord and King.
Another help to our doubts is the celebration of Christ's First Coming. Advent begins by focusing on the Second Coming of Christ. Advent then backs up and recalls the First Coming of Christ in lowliness: Jesus, born in obscurity only to grow up and die the ignominious death of a cruel Roman cross. Yet this very death was ordained of God for the salvation of the world. God had promised just such a Messiah centuries beforehand, and because God kept that promise we are assured that the promise of Christ's return will also be fulfilled. In God's time.